SPRINGFIELD — The township @SpringfieldTwNJ managed to deliver a tight budget this year that minimized the tax burden on residents while still developing new revenue streams and staying very close to 2012 budget levels.
It was a good year for Springfield, according to Democrat Mayor David Amlen, whose party controls the township committee 4-to-1 this year.
In part, he attributes this to taking a hard stance when it came to increases that were not critical to the township, while ensuring the municipality was prepared in case of another major emergency hits like superstorm Sandy.
The $29,713,758 budget, $21.5 million supported by local taxes, increased by only $384,662, compared to last year when the final number came to $29,329,096.
This reflected a .18 percent increase per average household for the year, or $5.85 for the average homeowner with a house assessed at $160,000.
The 2013 budget also left $2.9 million in surplus, which is important for the township bond rating should an emergency arise and the municipality needs money in excess of surplus funds.
The township received $1.7 million in state aid, the same as 2012, but grant money was down, going from $80,603 to $32,997. Overall, though, township revenues increased, going up from $6.9 million in 2012 to $7.3 million this year. Included among these revenues was the $200,000 the township received from Red Light camera fines after the state and courts received their share.
Among the expenses impacting the 2013 budget included $3.8 million, or an 11 percent increase in medical insurance for employees, $2.2 million, or a 7.9 percent increase for Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority, and $1.3 million, or a 2.1 percent increase for police and fire retirements.
The township earmarked $2.6 million for capital improvements, including new road paving, flood prevention improvements, new police and fire equipment, downtown redevelopment efforts and storm preparedness.
Although there were $650,000 in expenses from superstorm Sandy, Amlen said he was pleased taxpayers were not impacted more.
The nearly .02 percent increase the average homeowner will see, though, only reflected the impact local municipal taxes will have, not the total tax impact when school and county taxes are included.
According to Township Administrator Anthony Cancro, overall, when these three portions were compiled, local taxes came to 32 percent, county taxes 19 percent and the schools 49 percent. Cancro felt that in the end everyone worked together to present taxpayers with the best possible budget for 2013.
“It’s a tight budget, but a responsible one,” Cancro said in an interview late last week, pointing out that no services were disrupted to residents, and police, fire and emergency management also remained completely intact.
Making this an especially important year is the fact the township managed to include $2.6 million for infrastructure improvements, which are needed in the municipality. Included was new road and paving improvements, dike and flood prevention upgrades, sewer improvements, storm preparedness, recreation center restoration, pool filter replacement, new police and fire equipment and continued downtown redevelopment efforts.
After superstorm Sandy hit the area late last October, Cancro said township officials and emergency management personnel focused on where the municipality needed to make improvements. This was done with an eye towards being better prepared in case a similar storm hits the area again.
Setting aside money for generators for the municipal building and other township buildings that could possibly be used for shelters is one thing the township decided was a priority.
“We found out during Sandy that the generators we had for the municipal building didn’t power it enough, so we are correcting that now, before another storm hits,” the township administrator said.
The township also is obtaining larger generators for the library and buildings used as a shelter during emergencies. Another potential problem was also addressed by a proactive move.
“We also bought several inflatable boats that were funded by a state police grant,” Cancro said, adding that now the township will be able to safely remove residents in peril when floodwaters rise to alarming and dangerous levels.
Another proactive move was to set aside money for stream cleaning and tackling sections of the river that were blocked by fallen trees and other debris during the storm.
“I think we did a good job with the budget this year and figured out how to make improvements that will benefit taxpayers,” Amlen said.